Sunday, March 1, 2009

Freedom to Write in Stone

USA Today has announced that humanists are happy about the recent supreme court decision regarding free speech. I consider myself a humanist yet I am not so happy about it.

The supreme court in essence ruled that a city government can decide which religious monuments to allow in public places. The issue at the center of this case began when a small religious group in Pleasant Grove, Utah known as the Summum church requested that the city display a three foot granite slab outlining its core principles, the "Seven Aphorisms" next to a monument listing the Ten Commandments that has stood on this public park since it was donated by eagle scouts in 1971. I have posted about this case before and you can find all the quarks surrounding this religion described in detail here.

The problem with the supreme court decision is that it allows city governments to choose which religions are allowed to mark up public places. In my mind when one religion is allowed to display their beliefs carved in stone then that automatically makes the surrounding space a public forum and therefore any person or peaceably assembled group of people have the right to place their words in that public forum as well.

As I said before...

"In the case of the Summon religion and their granite slab I feel like the only fair thing to do is tell the city of Pleasant Grove to either remove all religious writings from the public land or allow those tasteful and aesthetically pleasing views of other religions to be erected as monuments of equal size and equal real estate value. The city still has the right to refuse in this instance but has to be an equal opportunity censor."

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

What does it mean for land to "public" as opposed to private? Should we also allow city governments to decide which type of buildings they would like to begin erecting on national wilderness lands?

Static religious displays should have NO PLACE on public land.

Anonymous said...

When I think of public land I think of land that everyone has the right to use - recreate on, speak on, and forage on (with the correctly assigned bureaucratic permits of course). I do believe that the city government has the right to choose which art to accept for display on public property, city parks and town squares etc. I do not however believe that these decisions should be based in religion. This is what I see happening in Pleasant Grove and this is what bothers me about the ruling.